Monday, June 9, 2014

Choose-your-own-adventure technology

Tammy’s discussion of “Choose your own adventures” books  led us to an interesting conversation on the appeal of these books to non-readers and then further, to if these  type of books might appeal to on-line game players and X-Box players (do they call them X-Boxers?).  Our sense of this was no – but were there on-line versions that might incorporate some of the decision making and thought processes?

Some Googling and trials of different search terms (choose your own adventure, interactive character stories) brought me to  Choice of Games, a company devoted to “producing high-quality, text-based, multiple choice games”. Their belief is that text-based games are an underutilized format in computer games, and that the use of text interacts with the imagination in different ways than a graphics-based game. (Hmmmm – interesting premise. I like it.)

They have many, many games that they have produced – the one that Tammy and I played is called “Dragon”. It starts off with a knight who attacks a dragon (the character that the player assumes). The choices that are made determine the arc of the story.  Whoever wrote this one clearly has a sense of humour and a willingness to push the boundaries of stereotypes. Here is an example:

“As you think about it, the knight’s attack was probably inevitable. After all, you did just kidnap the princess from right out of her tower. Although…Isn’t it a little sexist to always kidnap princesses?
o   Maybe, but tradition demands that dragons kidnap princesses, even if that is sexist.
o   You dare question my actions?
o   You know, I never thought about that before. In fact, I think I kidnapped a prince, just to avoid being sexist.
o   I’ll have you know that I make a careful point of alternating between princes and princesses, but it happened to be time for a princess.

Good humour displayed here and at a level that kids would get, I think. As you move through the game, the choices that you make determine things about your character (or you) – in this case, whether you, the dragon lose or gain brutality, cunning, disdain and infamy, what your wealth is and if you have wounds. 
The adventure continues – unlike physical books however, if you don’t like the way it is going, you have to go back and start again, which can certainly change the entire focus.

But what Tammy and I thought had huge potential was that Choice of Games offers the opportunity for you to write your own multiple choice games. They offer a basic guide to their programming language that enables someone to post their adventure online. Of course, you cannot just randomly start writing the program. And this is where an opportunity to capture the attention of reluctant writers and addicted gamers comes in. The story line will have to be plotted out, include what happens at each choice point – students would need to know about plot development, think through the impact at each choice point and perhaps even read a few books/short stories to get some ideas for story ideas and what might appeal to a particular age group.

This would not be a quick project – but the inspiration of being able to see a game that you have written on line might just appeal to those who are reluctant writers and readers.  It certainly would have more appeal than a book report – at least from my perspective.  And certainly, in Alberta, at any rate, a project of this nature would go a long way toward achieving not only the vision set out in  Alberta Learning’s Learning and Technology Framework, but the ability to foster cross-curricular learning is invaluable.

Choice of Games can be played both online and as downloads through iTunes and Android. In addition, authored games can be placed on iTunes and Choice of Games will split proceeds with the author. Kind of a win-win for everyone!!


Unknown said...

I remember there being text based adventure games when I was a kid my favorite being Legend of the Red Dragon. Recently, I have been impressed with the Choose Your Own Adventure History series for kids. I think there is definitely more room for this genre (?) and plenty of kids who would get on board.

Tammy Flanders said...

I certainly agree with you about the appeal that should be there. 'Interactive' is certainly relevant for today's kids.
Thanks for stopping by, Venus.

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